Nacon, formerly Bigben Interactive, insists on an expert racing studio. Only two years ago, the publisher got full control over it Kylotonn (now racing KT). It was also telling that the studio could make something impressive with the extra support and time. Last year, the developer’s best game was released in WRC 8, which I both watched and reviewed. The question now is whether the studio can maintain momentum for WRC 9, especially after the recent announcement that they are developing the new Test Drive Unlimited.
Now that WRC 9 comes out in a month, on September 5, I’m not going to say much about career mode. I save that for the review. All you need to know is that it is comprehensive. From the first appearance in a presentation, it seems similar to what you found in WRC 8 with functionality tweaks and UI improvements.
The starting point is pretty much the same, so you can jump into Junior WRC or give you three chances at WRC 3. While you’re in your career, balance different aspects from your calendar and the events you participate in, your crew and their capabilities, energy and of course the R&D of your team as a whole, impacting your crew, driving and even more.
As you’re probably used to from the series, the campaign will also feature events that you can test your skills in, ranging from simple training to extreme weather racing and historical racing, to name a few that were seen early on. As you recruit a better agent and go through the R&D boom that unlocks rare events, I have no doubt that you will do an even wider variety of events to enhance your income and experience, get you prepared for the next rally and, especially to prepare yourself for the big leagues.
There are currently no aspects that can be tested. Still, it’s clear what’s there and the function they claim to bring. That and, as I said, the career in WRC 9 doesn’t seem much different from that of WRC 8. Research and practical time with the final product will determine if that’s true or not. Until then, I’ll cover the feel of the game and what it looks like at this stage.
So, what does racing in WRC 9 look like? At the moment, it feels like it matches that of WRC 8 if not a little improvement. The cars I’ve been able to use all feel great. Well, great as in the sense that they should, handle each other differently, but handle as you would expect from any different car. It’s incredibly noticeable when you start using one of the classic cars, which just seem to be much worse, but that’s just to be expected from older cars.
What also has a huge impact is both the weather and the surface on which you race. This is pretty impressive already, especially if you get in really bad weather where you have a hard time even looking through your windshield. This is something I can praise myself for when the review finally comes out – the environments. With three new places to visit, I fell in love with Japan and Kenya in particular.
WRC 9 is a great looking and sounding game, there is no doubt about that. The build-up of dirt and snow on your car, the splashing water after driving through a puddle or river, the rain flying around you and obstructing your view. Add to that the great sound of the engine, the roar of your tires on the muddy ground, the clatter of rain and the clatter of rocks when it hits the bottom of your vehicle. KT Racing has improved dramatically from just four years ago, they are now fine-tuning and it works.
While I’ve explored quite a bit of the game so far, discussing some of the thirteen rallies in WRC 9, there are aspects of the game that I can’t explore. From the online mode, the changing tasks within the game and more, there will be a lot to discover closer to the release and in the final version. I can only say that there seems to be a lot to do.
What disappoints me is that they still fall into some of their older pitfalls. They can’t make these games too open, I understand that. What I really don’t like is how stiff and narrow the rail lines are in areas like Kenya, which is so open and spacious. The Return-to-Track time has been extended and this is a lost cause so late in development, but Kenya is ripe for a tight corner even if that takes the ‘sim’ away.
What now seems to have largely been resolved compared to the previous outing is physics. I have not noticed that my car flies too much in Team Rocket style. However, I have noticed a few minor issues. For example, I found myself taking a turn and reaching the barricade, my car would then phase through it and I couldn’t come back. That is quite a punishment. Other minor issues that are likely to persist in the review are objects that logically have to be destroyed if crashed, objects weaker than others in the game that do recede.
It’s weird. I feel that what I wrote about WRC 9 in this preview is more negative than what I feel about the game so far. Frankly, it’s doing so much good already that the little niggles seem to annoy me more than they should. The racing is already great, the career looks like it has a lot to offer and the game looks and sounds great.
Does the result offer everything as it looks? We’ll find out when WRC 9 launches on September 3 on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. It will be launched later for the Nintendo Switch and also on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.